Inside our health clinics across Ukraine

A mobile health clinic in Poltava. Credit: Photo credit: Jonathan Moore, July 2022.

The war in Ukraine has disrupted access to healthcare for millions of people. Our health clinics have been operating in some of the most affected areas to ensure everyone gets the treatment they need, when they need it.

More than 400 health facilities have been damaged by Russian forces. Working closely with the Ukrainian healthcare system, UK-Med staff have been able to restore access to healthcare for people living in remote villages or areas where the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) exceed the capacity of the health system.

Cut off from regular medical care

Seven million people have left their homes because of the fighting. Many have had trouble accessing supplies and medications, and appointments with their regular doctors have been difficult. Accessing regular treatment is essential to avoid exacerbating health conditions in a system stretched by war.

Our teams have been visiting medical centres to get them ready to provide much-needed healthcare to cities, towns, and rural communities. Every clinic is made up of both UK-Med staff and national healthcare workers with a GP, a nurse, a counsellor, and a translator. We have been partnering with local community groups and on social media to advertise these clinic sessions, to great success.

Over 2600 patients have attended our clinics in the past six months. Many of these patients are IDPs who have fled across the country from the fighting.

Sophie, a Critical Care nurse who spent five weeks working across clinics in Ukraine, describes one village as a place where “you can visibly see, smell and feel the destruction and emotional trauma of the war. To share a smile and hold someone’s hand in their darkest of times has been a true honour.”

Disrupted health services

The conflict continues to affect millions across the country, disrupting treatment routines. These clinics can provide essential continuity of care for long-term conditions like diabetes and asthma, as well as early intervention for developing conditions linked to the conflict, such as hypertension or cardiac disease.

Patients are arriving at the clinics with significant psychological distress from what they’ve experienced and report a number of symptoms associated with stress and anxiety. Often, people just need a space to talk about what they’ve been through. Many people have lost their homes, pets, and family members.

Elektra, an NHS and UK-Med nurse, explains “a lot of people are really upset when they’re discussing things that have gone on in the war”.

The emotional trauma of the war

We’re providing treatment for people who sustained injuries or health issues while fleeing their homes. 89-year-old Olga was forced to leave everything behind when the fighting arrived in her town in Eastern Ukraine. She managed to escape with her family, but fell during the frantic train journey.

After two weeks, Olga was still unable to see a doctor and her family was beginning to worry. Since attending UK-Med’s health clinics, we assessed Olga’s injuries and we were able to offer the pain relief she needed, and reassurance to her and her family.

Like all our projects in Ukraine, these clinics are designed to be flexible to respond to the health needs at the time. As a result of the changing situation, we’re also developing specialist mental health support to go alongside physical health interventions.

“Whilst working alongside the national staff, the physical and psychological scars of conflict are very much apparent,” NHS and UK-Med Emergency Nurse Marc says.

“Many healthcare staff are internally displaced, having fled from their homes for fear of losing their lives. They relive stories of losing loved ones and hiding in bunkers for days. Accounts like these reflect the enormity of their psychological health needs.”

Starting this week, our MPHSS (mental and psychological health support service) will support Ukrainians through the trauma they’ve experienced.

We were able to hit the ground running in Ukraine because of your support. If you are able to, donate today to make sure we can provide healthcare for those affected by outbreaks, conflict and disasters in Ukraine and across the world.

Read more about our work in Ukraine >

Thousands of patients have been cared for at the health clinics across Ukraine. Photo credit: Jonathan Moore

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